Ligurian Fish Casserole

Buridda

Also called Pesce in Tocchetto, this is a lovely, simple fish casserole which can be made extra special with the addition of porcini mushrooms if you can get them. The fish must be in thick chunks no larger than 3–4 inches (8–10 cm) square, or you can use whole small fish. What is important is to have a good variety of fish, for a mixture of tastes and textures. Don’t be afraid to use whole small fish with their heads on - it all adds to the flavour!

Ingredients

  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small carrot, scraped and chopped
  • 1 stick celery, chopped
  • 4 sprigs parsley, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 canned tomatoes, drained, de-seeded and chopped
  • 2 anchovy fillets, boned and washed
  • 1 oz (25 g) dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in tepid water for 15 minutes (optional)
  • 1 oz (25 g) pine kernels
  • 1 tablespoon plain white flour mixed with 3 tablespoons warm water
  • salt and pepper
  • lb (1 kg) mixed fish from the following list: hake, bass, swordfish, monkfish, squid, mackerel, whiting, John Dory, witch, plaice, grey mullet and red mullet, gutted, washed and cut into equal-sized chunks if over 4 inches (10 cm) long
  • 1 glass dry white wine
  • 4 thick slices coarse, white bread, toasted
  • 4–5 tablespoons olive oil

Method

Chop 2 of the garlic cloves and put with the onion, carrot, celery and parsley into a heavy-bottomed flameproof casserole with the olive oil. Fry gently, stirring, for about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir for 2–3 minutes, then add the anchovy fillets and stir again. Drain the mushrooms (if using) and reserve the water. Strain it carefully and add to the casserole. Chop the mushrooms finely. Chop the pine kernels very finely and mix them with the mushrooms. Alternatively whizz them together for 30 seconds in a food processor using the blade attachment. Mix the mushrooms and pine kernels with the flour and water and pour this mixture over the ingredients in the casserole. Stir and season generously with salt and pepper.

Now lay all the pieces of fish (or small whole fish) in the casserole, beginning with the larger ones. Cook for about 6 minutes on one side, then carefully turn the fish over and cook it on the other side. Pour in the wine and let the alcohol evaporate. Stir carefully, making sure that you do not break up the fish, and cook, covered, over a low heat for about 20 minutes.

Rub the toasted bread with the remaining garlic clove, lay the bread at the bottom of a warmed tureen, pour the fish casserole all over it and serve at once.

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